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Saturday, February 24, 2007

It's Oscar Time!

In honor of the Oscars tomorrow, today I'm going to give my thoughts on the most heavily nominated pictures of the year, as well as films that should have been nominated. This is the first year that I've seen four of the five movies nominated for best picture (well, sorta... read on), so I feel like I can offer a somewhat valid opinion on film for once.

Also, I haven't forgotten that this is a music blog. At the bottom of the post you'll find a few of my favorite tracks from films.

First, the nominated pictures:

Little Miss Sunshine - The only film I actively rushed out to see upon its release, it doesn't scream Oscar-winner, but it's probably the movie that I enjoyed watching the most. The cast is excellent, and I'd love to see a comedy like this win the big award. I would be happy with this movie or....

Babel - Another great piece. The execution is a tad clunky and requires a lot of thought afterwards to connect everything together, but the movie's so gripping and emotional that it hardly matters. Definitely the most sprawling of the nominees, I was entranced by its use of cultural barriers and universality of, as the critics like to say, "the human condition." It's between this and LMS for me.

The Departed - Okay, so I honestly only watched this for about an hour. I could not get into it in the slightest. Now, I'm not one for crime dramas anyways, but I had to give The Departed a try as it seems to be the frontrunner in this race. I hope it doesn't win, though. To me, there is nothing special or interesting about it. In fact, the whole thing had me absolutely baffled as to why critics have loved it so much.

The Queen - I liked this movie a lot. It had a very different, almost documentary style to it. Still, I don't think the film itself merits a best picture win. The acting was great, though, and the subtle storytelling very interesting.

Letters From Iwo Jima - Haven't seen it, but it's not like it's going to win anyway. It's probably good, though!

The Should Have Beens:

Pan's Labyrinth - Definitely my favorite film of the year, this one just knocked everything out of me. Very powerful movie. I hope it wins in the foreign language category, though it deserves so much more. Nothing was as imaginative, haunting or visceral as this all year.

Dreamgirls - Not my favorite film of the year, but a hair above The Queen and definitely better than The Departed. I went into this movie expecting to dislike it, but it really stunned me. Jennifer Hudson's performance was definitely a huge part of this, but so was the flashy direction and wise casting.

V For Vendetta - An early favorite of mine, I was sad that this wasn't nominated for anything, though I doubted it would be. The first time I saw this film, it moved me every bit as much as Babel did. I think the message is incredibly topical and the layering of the political and action-driven elements was flawlessly done.

And some tunes...

Flying (from Peter Pan 2003) - My favorite piece of music from my favorite film of all time. I'm not huge on instrumental pieces, but this is just too good not to love. Plus, it is extremely effective in the movie, which is itself extremely effective! You'll also recognize this from various trailers and commercials (somewhat unfortunately).

El Bosco - Nirvana - From another of my favorite children's movies, Millions, comes this stirring choral piece that ends the movie in a rather stunning fashion.

How Shall I See You Through My Tears (performed in Camp) - If you haven't seen Camp (about a summer musical theater camp) yet and you have even a passing interest in musicals and/or coming of age stories, rush out and find this movie. It's great, and the cast's haunting rendition of this song opens the movie brilliantly.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Danny - Tokyo

“Tokyo, you've got the rhythm in you"

The number one single in Sweden today belongs to Danny Saucedo with Tokyo. While I obviously wish it was The Ark, Tokyo is nonetheless a fantastic piece of club pop. Danny was a finalist in Sweden's Idol 2006, yet another singer that proves that even reality show contestants in Sweden produce better music than the ones in the US. The song itself is standard dance pop, with some killer verses and an inescapable melody. Watch for this one. It could make it out of Sweden as the Spring kicks in.

mp3: Danny - Tokyo
zshare: Danny - Tokyo

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the single here.)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position
Release Date: February 26, 2007 (UK)
Label: Universal

It appears that a bit of a mini cult has sprung up around Patrick Wolf. And, why not? Listening to his unique brand of cabaret/folk/rock, you get the impression that each track has its own elusive legend behind it. Delivered by a red haired pixy with a startling croon, even when the songs embrace the standards of pop, they simultaneously twist them in fantastic ways.

The Magic Position is Wolf's bid for stardom and, subsequently, it's easily his most accessible release to date. One need only listen to the stomping title track, which practically drips with pop polish, to realize this. Meanwhile, Accident & Emergency dives deeper into straight ahead synth pop than ever before, and Get Lost ups the tempo and offers a dazzling pop melody. Best of all is the moody Bluebells. Over a bed of fireworks and ominous guitar, the track's a slow building melodrama with a gorgeous melody. Elsewhere, Wolf doesn't stray too far from the gypsy folk he's known for. Magpie and Stars are the most successful of these efforts, the former an excellent autumnal duet with Marianne Faithfull.

In fact, the record is remarkably consistent. Even a handful of pointless interludes don't interrupt the majestic sound that The Magic Position presents. Although the album's cover depicts the sprightly Wolf posed dramatically on a colorful carousel, you're just as likely to find him crouching in some derelict, gothic castle out in the country somewhere. It's this duality that makes the record successful, and marks Wolf as a genuine star in the making. He may be a cult artist now, but The Magic Position should see that cult begin to grow. A-

Key Tracks: Bluebells, The Magic Position, Accident & Emergency

Bobby Conn - Love Let Me Down

“I know love won't let me down"

Searching for a picture to use for Conn's feature was so fun. The guy's completely old-school glam, a fact his look obviously attests to. As far as glam goes, I'd compare him to a group like Cockney Rebel. In some ways his music is very classic pop/rock, yet there's a hint of cabaret and showtunes involved as well. Love Let Me Down is off of Conn's recently released new album King For A Day, and is one of his more immediate songs. The chorus is pure giddy nostalgia, while the rest of the track recalls a more subdued Mika. About halfway through, Love really hits its stride, adding some brass and choral elements. Bowie would be proud.

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dragonette - Competition

“Goodness I like this, being your mistress"

Canada's Dragonette is a band that I'm sure most of you are already familiar with. But, they're one of those groups that, although I knew they were good, I just didn't quite get into as fast as many other bloggers. I have been following them since the beginning when they had two free tracks on their website (that'd be I Get Around and Shock Box, both excellent). Now that I've finally "gotten around" to hearing more from the band, though, I am absolutely hooked. True Believer and Competition absolutely sold me with their pop genius. Competition, especially, should be absolutely massive if there's any justice in the world. Today I'm posting the new mix of this song, which amps up the synths and still retains the slinkiness of the EP version.

mp3: Dragonette - Competition
zshare: Dragonette - Competition

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the EP here.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pleasure - Uptown

“Uptown is where I belong"

Fred Ball's Pleasure 2 album was released last week and, while basically picking up from where he left off with the last one, it's still a fantastic mix of eighties pop and glam-infused ballads. Uptown, sung by frequent collaborator Heidrun Bjornsdottir is among the catchiest of the electro dance tracks. It nearly rivals Out Of Love for pure giddiness. It's a shame the the album's so hard to get your hands on outside of Scandinavia. This kind of neon pop is perfect for the encroaching Spring/Summer.

mp3: Pleasure - Uptown
zshare: Pleasure - Uptown

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the album here.)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lucky Soul - The Great Unwanted

“Singing a hymn to the great unwanted"

Things seem to be back on track for alienthits approved UK band Lucky Soul. Gearing up for their upcoming album, they've made the title track available to the public and, while definitely bearing a different mood than Lips Are Unhappy, it's nonetheless a classy, gorgeous pop song. The track becomes more irresistable as it progresses and things continue to build, but it's really the pounding chorus that stands out, becoming stronger each time you hear it. Somewhere between the Pipettes and Johnny Boy, the band offers a sound that's an absolute breath of fresh air right now. They were number three on my list of new acts to watch in 2007 (I believe I'm already two for two on Mika and Alphabeat), and I can't wait to hear what they do next.

mp3: Lucky Soul - The Great Unwanted
zshare: Lucky Soul - The Great Unwanted

(Music posted for evaluation purposes only. If you like what you hear, support the artists! Buy the singles here.)